A Chinese newspaper has gleefully dismissed India’s navy as “too amateurish” to operate nuclear submarines after the pride of its fleet was put out of service because someone had left a hatch door open.
The Global Times also said India’s military forces were a “hodgepodge” of incompatible technologies due to billions of dollars being spent importing weapons from a range of suppliers, including Russia, France, the UK and the US — while it also tried to develop domestic variations.
INS Arihant, India’s only locally-built nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine and a symbol of the country’s blue water ambitions, has barely been sighted since it completed sea trials in early 2016 and was officially launched in August of the same year.
It was recently disclosed that the submarine, constructed at a cost of US$2.9 billion, was forced back to port after a rear hatch was left open when it submerged, flooding the propulsion plant. The propulsion compartment on a nuclear-powered submarine includes the reactor.
According to The Hindu, the submarine had to spend more than 10 months being dried out and undergoing repairs at its home port of Visakhapatnam. The Defence Ministry said the 6,000 tonne state-of-the-art vessel was now back in service.
India is only the sixth country to successfully build its own nuclear-armed submarine, but the incident has been a major embarrassment for the armed forces after they put their military might on show at the 69th Republic Day celebrations only late last month.
The state-owned Global Times mocked the “indiscipline and slackness” of the submarine’s commanders and crew and said the Indian Navy may be “too amateurish” to operate such a complex, advanced vessel.
“As a national strategic weapon, the nuclear submarine requires careful maintenance, strict management and operation. However, the sailors on the vessel failed to take good care of it,” a Beijing-based naval expert told the newspaper.
Criticising the caliber of India’s armed forces, the report said the Arihant gaffe had shown that most of its soldiers were “not well-educated and lack the necessary knowledge to operate advanced weaponry”.
“Improvement in military technology does not come about overnight and is not solely a military issue, but is related to a country’s comprehensive strength, level of technology, manufacturing capability and quality of personnel,” it said, adding a “warm reminder” that New Delhi would be better to divert resources from the arms race and rivalry with Beijing to proper, basic training of its troops.
The comments did not go down well with some online readers. One suggested that “the so-called expertise [of China] goes out the door when party line takes primary role in criticism [against India]”.
Undaunted by the incident, New Delhi is reportedly pressing ahead with plans for more submarines of the Arihant class. India has one other nuclear-powered submarine, the INS Chakra, but it is being leased from Russia under a 10-year deal that ends in 2022.